Ukraine’s capital Kiev is literally on fire with the rest of the country falling apart around it. It has been in turmoil since late November, and the country needed something to make them smile. The women’s biathlon team won the country’s first gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
It is especially sweet for them since the protesters are fighting against Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovich. They won the 4x6km biathlon relay and it is the first Winter Olympics gold medal in two decades.
“Great proof of how sport can unite the nation,” Sergei Bubka, the pole vault great and leader of the Ukraine Olympic Committee, posted on Twitter. “Moments after girls won gold Ukrainian Parliament stopped discussions …. Speaker greeted the team, MPs sang national anthem! It is a day of crucial decisions in Parliament. Hope the power of sport help to find unity.”
“I am very proud,” Bubka said. “The girls brought such a fantastic success, which really we needed today for the Ukrainian people, to bring the light, to bring the bright future and to show that Ukraine exists, the Ukrainian people together.”
This week was the most violent since the protests started in late November. Yanukovich turned down a trade deal with European Union in favor of a $15 billion bailout from Russia. Over 100 people died between Tuesday and Friday.
Twins Vita and Valj Semerenko, Julia Dzhyma and Olena Pidhrushna were crying on the podium.
“When I came to the podium I cried, and tried to hide it behind the skis,” Valj Semerenko said. “It was not only my tears, but the tears of the whole Ukraine.”
At a news conference an hour after the race, Pidhrushna urged a room full of people to stand for a minute’s silence in memory of the people killed in the protests in Kiev.
“We dedicate this victory to the whole of Ukraine,” said Pidhrushna. “We concentrated on the race, we are professional athletes. Despite everything that’s happening at home, we went out to the start line with the intent of performing as we are able to. We know what we had to do, and how.”
The protesters in Kiev were thrilled with the results.
“Today, Ukraine is winning in politics and sports,” Gleb Vashchuk, a protester on Maidan said. “Ukraine is a strong nation that has showed to the world how to fight and achieve the result.”
The opposition and Yanukovich reached a deal that includes limiting his presidential powers. But the majority of the protesters are not happy because their main demand was for Yanukovich to resign.